It is films like Bad Education that give Pedro Almodóvar such deserving high praise.
Back in 2005 the talented Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar made a film called Bad Education, which contains a film within a film and a story within a story based on the characters past without knowing much about their present. Yes, it is as complex as it sounds but the veteran director handles it with precision care. Like most of his other films, you will get the most out of Bad Education with each subsequent viewing of it.
One day in 1980 a successful Madrid-based filmmaker named Enrique Goded (Fele Martínez) gets a visit from a former grade school classmate named Ignacio (Gael García Bernal). The two have not seen each other in 16 years but it proves to be impeccable timing. Enrique has ran into a creative wall and is desperate for story ideas. It just so happens that Ignacio is an actor (who now prefers to go by his stage name Ángel) and brought with him a script of a story named “The Visit”.
We visually get to see what Enrique is reading of “The Visit”, which are flashbacks to their school days that include Ignacio getting sexually abused by Father Manalo (Daniel Giménez Cacho). It also recounts adolescent first love between Enrique and Ignacio. It turns out that the abuse that Ignacio received was directly tied to trying to get Enrique out of trouble.
As the story unfolds many storylines and ideas overlap each other thus making it fairly confusing in the beginning. You may think you have it figured out near the start but the characters have more depth that you may think. This is done intentionally but by the end of the film Almodóvar clears up much of the mystery.
One thing that I found particularly interesting is that when the script was being read, the aspect of the film would change. So it was as if we were watching the script of the film that was being read by Enrique. Trying to decipher what is the truth and what is made up is part of what makes Bad Education such a fun watch. But it also makes it hard to review as to not give away spoilers. Some characters are hustling other characters but it is likely not who you think it is.
It is films like Bad Education that give Pedro Almodóvar such deserving high praise. His ability for storytelling puts him in the company of Hithcock, Spielberg, Scorsese and Kubrick. During his film he shows slowly reveals pieces of a puzzle that only come together at the end and when they do they are remarkable.
It would be very difficult to write a review of Bad Education without discussing the exquisite performance that Gael García Bernal gives. Without giving too much away, Almodóvar pushes Bernal to the acting limit by playing several roles. Often he is scantily clad but there is one role which includes him dressing up in drag. If for some reason you did not appreciate Bernal before, this film should change your mind.
Because I first discovered Almodóvar from my favorite film of 2011, The Skin I Live In, I am in the unique position of watching his films in reverse sequence. So for me, I can see how each one of his later works has been influenced from Bad Education. Just like in Volver (and all of the films I have seen of his) his color palette consists of vivid color schemes. Broken Embraces was similar to this film in the fact that there is a film within a film. And finally The Skin I Live In contained a perverse natured erotic storyline which Bad Education certainly had some of.